Motorcycle Brake Buyers Guide:
Fixed vs. Floating Rotors
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When you go out shopping for rotors you will find two distinct types of rotors on the market. Fixed and Floating. Let’s take a moment to discuss what each one is!
Fixed rotors are just that, fixed. They are made of one solid piece of steel, cut or stamped into a disc. Here at Galfer we only Laser cut our rotors, it is extremely precise, and has a small heat effected zone, that makes our heat treatment process more effective.
Floating Rotors are called floating, because the rotor blade (the friction surface) is able to “float” independent of the carrier (part that mounts to the wheel).
Floating Rotor Benefits:
Performance! The number one reason why you would want a floating rotor is you are looking for the most stopping power! When you grab the brake lever it creates a hydraulic force that squeezes the brake pads onto the brake rotor. A floating rotor has the ability to conform to the brake pads giving maximum rotor to pad contact. This happens even when a relatively small amount of force is applied. Floating motorcycle brake rotors often lead to more consistent and predictable braking. When you are out on your bike having fun, floating rotors consistent performance characteristics can help inspire you to stay out longer having more fun!
Your perfect bike isn’t perfect! Every part of the motorcycle is built with in a set of manufacturing tolerances. For something like a piston it might be plus or minus one ten thousandths (.001) of an inch, other components like the seat foam may have a tolerance of plus or minus a one half of an (.5) inch or more. The brake rotor is attached to the wheel, the wheel is connected to the forks via an axel, the same forks are the mounting point for the calipers, those calipers may have an adapter to attach to the forks, and then you have the brake pads inside of the caliper. That is potentially 7 different parts, and it could be as many as 14 if you have a dual disk set up. With all those potential variants it is almost impossible for the rotors and pads to make maximum contact. Floating rotors allow some amount of travel from the rotor blade. This means that when the pads squeeze the rotor, the rotor will automatically center inside of the pads providing the highest amount of friction contact.
Lowers average braking temps! Heat is the main enemy of a braking system, too much heat will start reducing braking performance as the rotor gets softer and so does the friction compound on the brake pads. A floating rotor isolates the heat buildup to the friction blade. If must have heat in your system, where you want it is the rotor blade. It is specifically designed to get rid of the heat as fast as possible. Keeping the heat isolated also reduces the likelihood of having heat-soaked rotors, where they are so hot that the only real way to get them back to a safe temp is to stop riding. When you are out having fun, the last thing you want to do is have to hop off your bike because your brakes are too hot.
Fixed Rotor Benefits:
Cost! The cost difference between a floating motorcycle rotor and a fixed rotor can be huge. Fixed rotors work, the original rotors were fixed and a lot of rotors that come on bikes today are as well. This is due in large part to ease of manufacturing. Just because they cost less doesn’t mean you can’t still have some fun with them on your bike!
No moving parts! 2020 Outdoor Motocross Champion Zach Osborne used a fixed rotor on his motorcycle. In part because in the outdoor series you can have extreme track conditions. A floating rotor is made of a rotor blade, carrier, and buttons, a solid rotor is made out of steel and that is it. Mud, dirt, Sand, or any other type of debris could get into the buttons and compromise the effectiveness of the floating system. Not the case for a solid rotor, they are one piece of steel. Solid rotors can keep your confidence high as riding conditions deteriorate.
Upgrades! There are plenty of bikes that leave the factory with solid rotors on them. They were most likely produced in the hundreds of thousands by the lowest bidder using the cheapest raw materials and manufacturing processes. The type of steel, if they were stamped or cut out, how they were finished all matters. For example, at Galfer we only use our own proprietary 420 stainless steel alloy that is the best foundation we can start with, after that they are laser cut, heat treated, and then dual parallel disc ground to ensure uniformity and flatness. All of those components come together to be a sizeable upgrade over standard fixed rotors. Have more fun for less with fixed rotors!!!
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